En Route to Kindness

I’ve always been curious as to why there is no elementary class on the subject of kindness. The idea of benevolence is one of the most fundamental aspects to treating people fairly and growing up properly. While there may be classroom rules that center around respect, bullying still runs vehemently in many individuals. According to the nationally recognized organization ‘To Write Love on Her Arms,’ about 121 million people suffer from depression worldwide.

Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson are two women who seek to educate students on the constant girl-against-girl crimes that are performed almost unremittingly. They two launched a non-profit organization entitled the ‘Kind Campaign’ in 2009.

Zooey Magazine: Lauren and Molly, can you guys describe for us what the Kind Campaign is all about? Lauren and Molly: Kind Campaign is a non-profit organization, movement and documentary that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl “crime.” We are just two normal girls who wanted to make a difference by creating a kinder community of females. Through our documentary, Finding Kind, our assembly program, our web site’s interactive features and applications, and our newly launched Kind Club Curriculum, we are able to give girls a voice and educate massive amounts of girls and parents about how to handle and cope with girl-against-girl bullying. The two of us travel with our school program throughout the entire school year. It’s amazing to see how girls connect with us during the assembly. Being young allows students to see us as peers and really opens them up to honest conversation. It’s incredible to be able to let girls know that they are not alone, that they will get through those tough times and that they each have the ability to change the world with their friends.

ZM: There are other anti-bullying movements out there today (Trevor Project, It Gets Better, Love is Louder, etc) but yours specifically seeks to reach girls. What ultimately compelled you to begin this movement? Lauren: First off, let me just say how thrilled we are to see so many groups and organizations finally taking a stand to bring awareness to this often overlooked social dilemma. We have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the people from various anti-bullying groups and it’s really encouraging to see how passionate people are about making this world a kinder place. Kind Campaign is unique because our program focuses on girl-against-girl ‘crime.’ Girl world can be a very cruel place. It always concerned me to see how uncommon it can be for females to find good friends. There is such a sense of competition built within the female culture, which often results in broken relationships. It’s something every girl goes through. I went through a really hard time in middle school with a group of girls. My experience got so severe that in seventh grade, I tried to take my life as a result of the social pressures I faced every day. Ever since that time in my life, I have been deeply passionate about creating a platform for girls to harness their voice and speak out about this unfortunate universal experience. While attending Pepperdine film school, I became inspired by the documentary format and decided that was exactly how I wanted to expose and share this story. I spoke with Molly about this and learned that she also had an experience from high school that really connected her to the documentary. We immediately started shooting local interviews. Seeing how vulnerable and open women and girls were about their experiences inspired us to take it another step further, and that is when Kind Campaign was born. Since September 2009, we have gone on 3 national tours, have spoken in over 350 schools, have screening Finding Kind in hundreds of schools and venues and have reached hundreds of thousands of girls.

ZM: How has the Kind Campaign grown since 2009 when you first started it? Molly: Wow. From the very beginning, we’ve been running to catch up with the growth of Kind Campaign, which is such a wonderful blessing. Really, we are constantly learning and growing. Since we began we released Finding Kind, traveled on three national tours as well as traveling internationally into Canada, launched Kind Clubs, and re-designed and re-launched our website which is an amazing resource. Lauren: I am so proud that Kind campaign has now become a movement on the forefront of the bullying issue across our country. When we travel, complete strangers know about the campaign, the work we are doing and the film. It’s become so much bigger than us.

ZM: How was filming Finding Kind and what would you consider the best part of the whole process to be (from pre-production to filming to post-production)? Lauren: Filming Finding Kind was truly a life changing experience for me. I am really proud of the fact that I am able to hold a finished DVD of my first attempt at a feature film. Directing, writing, and producing the film was quite a learning process but was such a blast. Waking up on the road each morning and envisioning the shots I wanted to get was such a cool, creative process. There were so many unexpected moments and strangers that we met on the road trip that added such a unique feel to the film. For me, the most challenging and rewarding part of the filmmaking process was post-production. I worked with Vegard Sorby (We love you Vee!) every day and night for 10 months to get this doc finished by back to school 2010. Going into the edit with almost 200 hours of footage and narrowing that down to 75 minutes was such a fun challenge. I found story boarding and doodling and listening to We Own the Sky by M83 very helpful in trying to figure out exactly the story I wanted to tell. Molly: It was such an adventure! We started pre-production immediately after graduation from Pepperdine, so I spent that entire summer making cold calls to thousands of schools across the country and to companies to try and find sponsorships to fund the road trip and production. I think it’s a testament to how serious this issue is that schools opened their doors to two young girls that said that they could help. Being on the road and filming was extremely exhausting, but so worth it. Every day we met kind and generous people who shared their stories and words of encouragement, which is one of my favorite parts of the production process.

ZM: How can girls around the country get involved? Molly: There are so many ways to get involved with Kind Campaign. One of the biggest ways to get involved whether you are a student or a parent is by hosting a screening of Finding Kind, bringing Lauren and me to your area for an assembly, or by starting a Kind Club within your school or community. IndieFlix, Finding Kind’s distribution company, makes this process super easy and you can find all of the information at www.kindcampaign.com and www.findingkind.com. By spreading Kind Campaign’s message of kindness and hope, this will help others going through their own experiences to know that they are not alone. Another great way to get involved is by taking the Kind Pledge or giving someone a Kind Apology or Kind Card or sharing your story on the Truth Wall and really utilizing all of the interactive features that the website has to offer. Also, by sporting Kind Campaign gear, our T-shirts and wristbands, you are supporting Kind Campaign while spreading the message of KINDness.

ZM: What is Kind Magazine? Lauren: Kind Magazine is an online publication we created that allows women and girls to share their stories with females all over the world. While it’s visually trendy and sleek, the magazine content is relevant, raw, and emotional. Anyone can submit their story to be reviewed and included in our newest editions of the magazine. All you have to do is email your story tokindmag@kindcampaign.com. All the issues are featured on www.kindcampaign.com. We have found that allowing girls to write about their experiences really creates a lot of healing and understanding.

ZM: How do you utilize social media for your movement? Molly: This has been a really great learning experience. When we first started out the world of Twitter was still relatively new, so we’ve been trying to keep up with the trends within social media. But, it’s because of social media that we’ve been able to spread our message on an international level. Through our Facebook and Twitter page, we are able to keep people updated while we are on the road and post videos to YouTube from the film and from our travels. Also, it’s a great way to really plug people into the movement, but also connect them with each other. It’s been really cool to see this community of KIND develop organically through social media. People that we’ve met and become friends with during our travels in different cities have now connected with each other. It’s really amazing to see these girls and women who have never met one another in person, support each other online and refer to each other as their KIND Family.

ZM: Is there anything you guys hope to accomplish in the near future or for the long run? Maybe another film to track your endeavors? Lauren: Right now we are continuing to travel all over America with our assembly program and film. We are super excited about our new initiative, Kind Clubs, so we are focusing on getting that implemented into as many schools as possible. We have discussed another documentary, a follow-up to Finding Kind. We are really excited about the potential to share a new story. So much has happened since we finished that film and it would be so great to get behind the camera again.

ZM: What has been the most satisfying part of this whole experience? Lauren and Molly: Seeing positive change occur within friendships, relationships and schools nationwide. That’s what really keeps us doing what we’re doing. It’s hearing the girls stories when they come up to us following the assemblies and share with us how much the film and the assembly program impacted and changed their lives. It’s seeing girls hand out Kind Apologies to one another and mend friendships right before our eyes. And it’s hearing girls and women talk about Kind Campaign inspiring them to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.

Interviewed by Michelle Chang Photographed by Diana King

Published in the February/March 2012 Issue of Zooey